Viral etiologies of some human malignant neoplasms have long been postulated, with little confirming evidence. Recently, however, an etiologic association has been made between a type C retrovirus called "human T-cell leukemia virus" (HTLV) and an unusual tumor of mature T cells in humans called "adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma."1 The tumor originally was thought to occur only in geographic areas where the virus is endemic, such as southwestern Japan and the Caribbean, but the disease has now been identified in other parts of the world, suggesting that the virus is more widespread than initially thought.
The malignancy is characterized clinically by lymphadenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly, skin lesions, lytic bone lesions, hypercalcemia, and an aggressive course with an average survival of less than one year.2 The malignant cells are pleomorphic lymphocytes with lobulated nuclei. They possess mature T-cell surface markers characteristic of the helper phenotype, but they function as suppressor cells.
Kasper CK, Johnson CS. Hematology. JAMA. 1984;252(16):2188–2191. doi:10.1001/jama.1984.03350160056017
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